Issue of January 25, 2015
Mt. Province

Baguio Day Anniversary Issue
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Point of Order

It seemed rather opportune that while Pope Francis was exhorting Malacañang officials not to lend themselves to corruption, former Pangasinan 5th district congressman Mark Cojuangco was seen going the rounds in Baguio City and Benguet seeking endorsement for his proposal to reroute the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.

The 88-kilometer TPLEX, built at a staggering cost of P16 billion, was originally designed to reduce travel time from Baguio City to Manila and vice-versa from an average of six to four hours.

The project is funded by the Private Infra Development Corporation as the concessionaire under the build-operate-transfer scheme. The PDIC is wholly owned by the San Miguel Corporation where Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Mark’s father, sits as chairman of the board.

The original design, according to Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, was for the expressway to end where the Baguio-bound Marcos Highway would begin.

Cojuangco, who was once criticized for filing a bill that sought to re-commission the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Plant, wanted to re-direct the expressway through the town of Sison near San Fabian before it reaches the Rosario junction to Kennon Road.

He was quoted as saying this would cost the government less money.

Cosalan said the proposed extension would actually cost the government another P1B and another seven to 10 kilometers to go before reaching the entrance to the Marcos Highway.

Last week, Public Works and Highways Sec. Rogelio Singson himself told a Manila-based broadsheet that the concessionaire may not be swayed by the former solon’s proposal.

He was also quoted as saying: “I don’t think it was acceptable to the concessionaire. San Fabian’s terrain is a bit rough and to follow the proposed route would bypass the Rosario junction that leads to Kennon Road.”

The provincial board of Benguet in a resolution stressed the proposed re-routing would benefit the province of Pangasinan but would prove disadvantageous to Baguio City and Benguet as gateways to the Cordillera.

The board said the proposed re-routing would move the tail section of the expressway more than seven kilometers away from the junction of the Saitan-Rosario, La Union junction that connects to the Kennon Road.

The board called on the DPWH to stick to the original design. The City of Baguio is expected to make a similar stand.

Reports filtering from Pangasinan itself said the re-routing move is opposed by environmental groups considering that it would involve the cutting of trees.

Under no stretch of imagination can we express sympathy for the re-routing bid unless there is something there that has not been said. First, it defies logic. Expressways are supposed to lessen travel time, not to burden road users in a round-about fashion before they reach their destinations.

Second, it is not obviously the product of consultation among inter-provincial neighbors and stakeholders. What have local officials and affected landowners of both Sison and San Fabian to say, for instance?

It stands to reason therefore that the soonest the proposal is thumbed down, the soonest concerns are assuaged and speculations typical of the Filipino are laid to rest.

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